Issue #28

5 simple tips to design email newsletters that generate clicks and conversions

14 min read
In this Article

How many emails are you subscribed to right now? Too many to remember?

I hear you.

Eventually, all of those emails become a blur, but if you want your own newsletter to stand out among the rest, you’ll need to learn how to design a newsletter that gets opens and engagement.

Whether your list size is ten or 10,000, a polished newsletter will give you an edge over your competitors and make your subscribers excited when they see your name pop into their inbox.


The purpose of email newsletters

Email marketing offers a significant advantage that social media marketing does not: the ability to speak directly with your biggest fans.

No need to pay for ads.

No need to decode any algorithms.

Your newsletter should be the focal point to develop a strong relationship with your audience.

When you manage to get email marketing just right, you can grow your business through automated emails and position yourself as a trusted authority.

And if you’ve ever heard the phrase, “the money is in the list,” it’s because email marketing has a hefty average ROI of $38 for every $1 spent.

I don’t know about you, but I like those numbers a lot.

Simply put, the benefits of email marketing are too big to ignore.

So let’s dive into the top email newsletter design tips you can apply to your next email blast.

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Email newsletter design tips

The design of your newsletters is equally as important as the content within.

A poorly-designed newsletter is painful to read and can result in a high number of unsubscribers.

Let’s learn how to design a newsletter that will hold your audiences’ attention and entice them to click-through your content!

1. On-brand design

If your inbox is always overflowing, you aren’t alone. American workers send and receive an average of 126 emails per day, which is near 1,000 emails per week.

If your recipient clicks to your email and can’t remember who you are, they might just unsubscribe, or worse yet, mark you as spam (remember: they are getting hundreds of emails each week).

An on-brand email can help your subscribers remember who you are.

There are a few ways to ensure everything is consistent with your brand.

Color palette

First, your emails should use the same color palette you use for the rest of your branding.

Consistency is key, and while it might be tempting to jazz up your emails with splashes of color, it’s best to stay tried-and-true to your brand’s colors.

But we shouldn’t stop there.

Colors are a great way to remain consistent, but many times, a particular color isn’t a significant memory-refresher of who you are.

Branded imagery

A useful strategy to stay on-brand while simultaneously reminding your reader who you are is to add branded imagery to your newsletter.

A header or email signature with a photo of yourself or your logo is the easiest way to jog your reader’s memory.

I’ve added a photo of myself to my email signature and use it for every email I send.

I use the same image of myself in my email signature that I have for my social profiles. It makes it easy for my subscribers to remember who I am.
I use the same image of myself in my email signature that I have for my social profiles. It makes it easy for my subscribers to remember who I am.

Free online tools, such as Crop-Circle, can crop any photo of yours into a circle for your signature.

2. Less is more

Don’t get carried away with your email newsletter design.

Emails heavy on pictures, GIFs and videos are more likely to land in the junk folder.

A good rule of thumb is to compare your emails with the ones you send to friends.

Do those emails have lots of HTML, styling and media?

Probably not.

Keep your emails simple to avoid the junk folder!

3. Readability

Forty-eight percent of email recipients spend less than seven seconds reading emails.

I don’t know about you, but I certainly can’t digest much information within seven seconds.

A piece of content with excellent readability is easy and enjoyable to read and guides your reader to key takeaways and other important information.

To increase the time your readers spend on your email blasts, you should review the readability of your newsletters.

Choose a suitable font

Your font choice is highly important for your email newsletter design.

A legible font will prevent your readers from clicking off your newsletter and keep them reading for longer.

Let’s look at two examples to illustrate the impact a clear font has on readability.

Above are two different fonts. One is challenging to read while the other is easy on the eyes.
Above are two different fonts. One is challenging to read while the other is easy on the eyes.

You should also try to stick to web-safe fonts for your email newsletters. Web-safe fonts are ones most devices have pre-installed, so you can be confident your audience can view your newsletter precisely how you designed it.

Standard web-safe fonts you might already know of are:

  • Arial
  • Verdana
  • Times New Roman

Headers (H1, H2, H3, etc.)

Just like blogging, the use of headers can be highly beneficial when designing your newsletter.

If you tend to write long emails with different topics or ideas, headers will help you group your thoughts into suitable sections.

Your headers should always follow the order from H1 to H6.

Ann Handley often sends out long email newsletters and her use of headers allows the reader to quickly find sections they want to read.

Ann’s newsletter uses headers to help divvy up her content. Image via Total Annarchy archives
Ann’s newsletter uses headers to help divvy up her content. Image via Total Annarchy archives


The golden rule with media in your email newsletters is to use it sparingly and to never put critical information in your media.


Images can undoubtedly add flair to your newsletter design, but remember that all your readers may not see your pictures.

Your images should especially never replace text.

Take my email provider, for example. It automatically blocks all images within emails unless I explicitly allow them.

Images may be automatically blocked for some members on your list, like this one from Moz is for me.
Images may be automatically blocked for some members on your list, like this one from Moz is for me.

In most cases, I don’t click to display the images. And there are likely people in your audience who do the same!

To make your images user-friendly for all, ask yourself: Are those who don’t see my images missing out?

If the answer is no, you’re good to go!

You can also add alt-text to your images in the chance they don’t load and for those who use screen readers.


At ConvertKit, we’re big with email deliverability and want to be sure your emails are landing in your subscribers’ inboxes.

Unfortunately, videos hamper email deliverability.

Most email providers don’t allow the ability to view embedded video content. If you need to send your readers to a video, we recommend adding a photo screenshot of the video to your email and link to where the video is hosted.

Ashlyn Carter uses an image that links to a YouTube video within her email newsletter.
Ashlyn Carter uses an image that links to a YouTube video within her email newsletter.

This way, your readers will still be able to watch your video and your deliverability won’t be affected.

It’s a win-win!


GIFs are quite possibly the universal language of social media.

giphy-social gif

These eye-catching tidbits can add context to your content, grab your readers’ attention and add emotion without additional words.

Luckily for us, GIFs are supported by most email providers. Just make sure you use them sparingly.

You can find free GIFs online in this GIF library.

Bold and italicized text

Although your email newsletter design should be simple, you can still stylize your content through bold and italicized text.

When you have an important call-to-action or key takeaway, the best way to make sure it stands out is to contrast it against the rest of your content.

Bold and italicized text jumps off the page and is a simple way to grab your readers’ attention (especially those who skim your content).

Emphasize your call-to-action (CTA)

You should give special care to your CTA.

After all, it’s the driving force behind your sales, website traffic, and promotion of your products/services within your newsletters.

To get your readers to engage with your CTA, you should place it within your content near the top of your email, as well as the bottom.

If you only place a CTA near the bottom, you might lose your readers who don’t read your email in its entirety.
Holly, creator of A Branch of Holly, has added her CTA multiple times in her email newsletter so readers can easily sign up for her masterclass.

The CTAs in Holly’s newsletter are easy to spot, even to those who may skim through.
The CTAs in Holly’s newsletter are easy to spot, even to those who may skim through.

Short paragraphs

Never underestimate the power of white space.

Take this article you are reading right now, for example.

If you scan through, you’ll notice I’ve used lots of white space by writing shorter paragraphs and adding space between my thoughts.

White space makes content much easier to read and digest.

And when content is easier to read, more of it is actually read.

Take a look at this newsletter excerpt from Carly with Mommy on Purpose:

Short paragraphs, like the ones Carly uses, are effective to increase your newsletter’s readability.
Short paragraphs, like the ones Carly uses, are effective to increase your newsletter’s readability.

Short paragraphs are much easier to read than chunky blocks of text!

4. Mobile optimization

Forty-six percent of people open their emails mobile, so when you design a newsletter, you will want to be sure it’s going to look amazing on every device it’s read on.

So, how do you design an email newsletter for mobile devices?

Clean fonts

First, as I already mentioned, it’s important to use web-safe fonts. Illegible fonts become even harder to read on smaller devices.


Next, think about your imagery.

It might look flawless on a desktop, but how does it look shrunk to scale on a mobile device?

For example, you might be tempted to place an infographic in your email newsletters.

But imagine how challenging an infographic will become to read on a mobile device.

The same goes for photos with lots of details — they may look good on a desktop, but if nearly half your audience reads your newsletter on their mobile device, they aren’t going to see the image clearly, which will lead to poor user experience.

Subject lines

Email newsletter design isn’t just limited to the content within your newsletter.

Your subject line is arguably the most important part of your newsletter! Forty-seven percent of people open newsletters based upon the subject line.

A good subject line will entice recipients to open the email so they get all the goodness you’ve packed inside your newsletter.

While desktop browsers can display long subject lines, mobile devices tend to cut the subject line off around 40 characters or less.

To optimize your subject lines for mobile devices, I recommend two things:

  1. Front-load your subject line (in other words, placing critical information near the front so key info doesn’t get cut off by a character limit)
  2. Keep it short and sweet

Tools like CoSchedule’s Email Subject Line Tester will help improve your subject lines so you can be confident they will generate more opens and look great on mobile.

At ConvertKit, we also have a handy A/B subject line tester to test which subject lines generate the most opens.

To see all three points in action, let’s take a look at Jessica Gavin’s email newsletter:

Jessica’s newsletter is perfectly optimized for mobile devices.
Jessica’s newsletter is perfectly optimized for mobile devices.

In her newsletter, the subject line is concise, eye-catching and tells me exactly what’s inside.As for the body of her email, the header photo is clear, the font is clean and I’m able to spot the CTA right away.

5. Keep the unsubscribe link visible

Unsubscribers are inevitable and also beneficial. When people unsubscribe, they make room for those who are engaged and excited to receive your emails.

Instead of trying to disguise and hide your unsubscribe link, keep it right in the open!

In fact, email marketing laws require you to have an unsubscribe link, so this part isn’t negotiable.

Usually, unsubscribe links appear at the bottom of the email, along with your physical address.

The unsubscribe link appears in the footer of my emails and is easy for my subscribers to find
The unsubscribe link appears in the footer of my emails and is easy for my subscribers to find

Other tips for successful email newsletters

Here are a couple more helpful tips so you can be sure your next email newsletter is successful.

1. Test your newsletter

After finishing your email newsletter design, you have one last task before you hit the send button.

It’s good practice to test your email on different devices. Testing will ensure your email looks fantastic regardless of the device your subscriber uses to read it.

Fortunately, you don’t need to have several types of phones to test your newsletter. You can see how it looks right within the Chrome browser with Chrome DevTools or by resizing your browser window.

Chrome DevTools

To access Chrome DevTools, you need to be in the Chrome browser viewing your newsletter.

On Windows, use the shortcut “Shift+Ctrl+i” or “Command+Option+i” on a Mac. In the screen that follows, click on “Toggle device toolbar”.


From the dropdown menu at the top of the screen, you can choose from different devices to view your content.


Browser window

Resizing your browser is another quick way to see how your newsletter design will appear on smaller screens!

Although you aren’t able to specify which device you’d like to emulate, as you can with Chrome DevTools, you’ll still be able to see if your design is suitable for smaller screens.

If you make your browser smaller you can see how your newsletter will appear.

When you do this, you’ll want to make sure your content still has sufficient white space and that important information is easy to spot.

2. Metrics

Your email marketing metrics can tell a valuable story and will help you understand whether or not your email newsletter design appeals to your subscribers.


Here are some metrics to keep an eye on:

  1. Open rate: the percentage of people who opened your email. A low open rate might indicate your subject lines aren’t attention-grabbing.
  2. Deliverability rate: the percentage of emails delivered to an inbox. A low deliverability rate could mean your emails go to spam. You can review your newsletter design and make sure there aren’t any obvious red flags.
  3. Email click rate: percentage of people who clicked the links in your email. A low email click rate could mean your CTAs don’t stand out.

Ready to up your newsletter design game?

Email newsletter design is a skill everyone can (and should) learn! When you know how to design a newsletter properly, your email subscribers will look forward to reading your emails.

ConvertKit’s visual Email Template editor gives you the tools you need to design high-converting email newsletters (no coding experience required)!


Simple works best. You should limit the number of images you use and never embed videos into your emails.

For improved readability, use clear fonts and give your content room to breathe with white space and short paragraphs.

Stay up to date with your email newsletter metrics so you know where to improve your newsletter design.

And lastly, did you know you can create newsletters for free in ConvertKit? ConvertKit's Free plan lets you manage up to 1,000 subscribers to send your well-designed newsletters to. It's the best, easiest, and seriously free way to connect with your audience.

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Dana Nicole

Dana is a freelance writer who works closely with B2B SaaS brands to create content people enjoy reading. When she’s not working, you’ll find her sipping on a warm cup of tea and reading a good book (the scarier, the better). See what she’s up to at

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